My 2019 #oneword- FOCUS: Yes, It is a Revisit!

Last year was a whirlwind of a year. Every ounce of me relied on my #oneword of 2018 Brave. I had to be brave in our process of moving states, finding a new job, relocating my kiddos to a new school… and that was just the big stuff. Who knew finding a hair stylist and nail technician would also require bravery… but a bad haircut and horrible pedicure taught me to bravely face my reflection both on the surface and deep within.

word of the yearSo, here we are and I have never known so clearly what my #oneword should be… FOCUS. Funny thing, it’s been my word before. At first, I thought about changing it. I mean, who has a #oneword twice, unless they really sucked at it the first time, right? And then I really started reflecting. There has been A LOT of change for me and my job isn’t anything like it was for the past two years. I am in charge of guiding, designing and directing the path of our organizations learning and curriculum. I am also a BIG IDEA person. If you are familiar with the Compass Points Protocol, I am an EAST all the way through. This is great for dreaming, for vision casting, for pushing the limits, for designing with the end in mind, but not for details in implementation and making sure there is mastery before introducing something else. It wasn’t that I hadn’t mastered FOCUS, it was that I needed to revisit it. I needed to reel myself in. I need to constantly remind myself to FOCUS.

Screen Shot 2018-12-20 at 8.42.20 PMLet me back up a little and let you know how I came to this clarity of thought. First, our Admin team began reading “Leading With Focus” by Mike Schmoker in mid-November. It has been a true challenge to my “speedboat” approach to learning and thus my leading. I also reinforced what I  remind myself of often, “If you are leading where you are so far ahead of everyone else, you aren’t leading you are alone.”

Second, I am one that has a hard time “narrowing down” ideas into details, however, I had been tasked with facilitating professional development for a group of educators that serve a group of students that are some of our hardest to reach. My plan? Fostering Effective Student Goal Setting. How am I going to do this? Have the teachers select their #oneword, create a vision board and then identify achievable step by step goals for themselves, then take the hands-on learning and they had and devise an approach to do the same with their students.

Will this be effective? Well, we will see after January 7th.

Am I optimistic? Yes. Why? Well, you never try something you aren’t willing to do yourself. I have written down ideas, plans, goals around my #oneword before, but never fully done a vision board. I did one this time, and I discovered when you do this you work from your innermost passions.

Where do students derive their motivation? From their passions. Not only that, but the vision boards share visually what words can’t capture and at a deep relational level that a simple written word or goal does not capture. And that is why I am optimistic. I am hoping that this exercise in identifying their #oneword, then creating their vision board and then finally creating simple, actionable, attainable goals that will be shared with their teachers will create the path for a trajectory of positive change.

IMG_1620For me, I know that taking my #oneword FOCUS and creating this vision board is giving me the guide for leading learning with my organization, for my family and for myself. Additionally, it is helping me with another aspect that I have recently discovered through Brene’ Brown’s book “Dare to Lead.” I want to lead in such a way that whatever our focus we do brave work, have the tough conversations to move forward and I show up with my whole heart. That requires vulnerability and in the spirit of that, I am sharing a picture of my vision board for my readers.

I hope that you find inspiration and encouragement with your #oneword as I have and will with mine. I want to also share that in addition to my personal #oneword my family also has a #oneword they select each year. This year it is BALANCE. To me, it is the perfect intersection of words. If you want to read more about my family’s #oneword you can find it on my family blog: “2019 and Our Family’s #oneword.”

Bridging the Gap…

bridge for gap post

I wrote this three years ago. I am not sure why I didn’t post it then, but as I read today it is still relevant. Thank you to my readers for indulging me with this “hidden” post from the past. 🙂

I’m in my second year as an Instructional Technology Coach. I think about my previous year and what I learned, how I succeeded and how I failed.  I also think about where am I and the teachers I work with regarding authentic seamless technology integration into classroom instruction and learning, and where I would like to take my teachers and students.  I have teachers who seamlessly integrate already.  They are the first to show me what they have learned and will often ask me to partner with them as we take risks and try new approaches and techniques with technology.

That is all good stuff.  As a coach it makes me feel pretty awesome.  However, that is not where the challenge lies.  It is in the places where teachers are not confident in their use of technology and are at the same time adjusting to new curriculum resources, techniques and/or scope and sequence that the true test of my abilities as an Instructional Technology Coach arise.  It is there I see I have work to do.

Teachers who naturally integrate… they don’t really need me.  They are a bonus in my job as they help me sharpen my own skills and provide me opportunities to “try” things with them before I bring the ideas to others.

For most teachers, however, there needs to be a bridging of a gap or divide between technology utilization and content taught. Some may say that the divide is not that big, but in all honesty it is there and larger than many care to admit.  It is easy to get frustrated or even say teachers were given the training and it is up to them to use it.  However, I go back to the mantra “We do what’s best for kids.”  I argue that if we are doing “What’s best for kids,” then, as an instructional technology coach, I am responsible for making it happen with those teachers that are more reluctant to use technology as a seamless part of instruction and/or provide digital platform choices for students to demonstrate learning.

So I asked myself, “How can I bridge the gap between curriculum and technology?”

These are a few things I have learned and through reflection have realized:

1.  A teacher who begins conversations with “I don’t have enough time…” I work with them on ways that they can become more efficient with the use of a technology tool.  When they see the benefit they will take that same tool and utilize it in ways for students to demonstrate learning.

2.  Honor the content expertise of the teacher.  When meeting to determine ways to integrate technology in the lesson or lessons, begin with the end in mind, seeking to understand the learning expectations and goals of the teacher. For example, ask “Could you share with me the learning target(s) for your students? I want to understand the content that students should demonstrate mastery with when this lesson is completed.” and “Would you mind sharing the rubric you plan to use that assesses student mastery of the content for this lesson.” (If the teacher does not have a rubric available, this is a great time to collaborate and create one together.)

3. Design a lesson that reflects the philosophy of teaching on that campus and district.  In our district we have moved to a workshop model approach and have campus level Problem of Practice (P.O.P.)/Instructional Focus to address areas of continuous improvement.  As I continue to move forward bridging the gap between curriculum and technology, I consider how I can help teachers seamlessly integrate from the opening, to the work period, and then at the closing.  Additionally, at every turn the process will be measured against how the integrated technology and instruction work toward the P.O.P./Instructional Focus while delivering the content.

4.  Streamline paperwork.  Teachers are inundated with forms, data collection, and progress monitoring tools.  When teachers see technology as a seamless way to perform their behind the scenes duties they become open to ways to integrate in the classroom.  Providing tools that streamline this and provide them ways to better interpret the data and make informed decisions about how to best meet the needs of students is essential.  If we don’t meet them in the areas that consume their conference time and relieve those time demands via efficient tools then they won’t make the time to learn ways to integrate technology into daily instruction.

5. Change the mindset of how the Instructional Technology Coach is viewed.  If you are still getting emails or being stopped in the hall to fix a printer, politely offer to show them how to put in a help desk, but then take the opportunity to ask them about upcoming instruction. Take that opportunity to share a way for them to go paperless with that lesson. When they email you asking for a fun new presentation tool you would recommend, refer them to a database of tools, but then ask them what is the lesson target and could you meet with them to see how the lesson could be fully integrated and student learning redefined.

6.  Perform your own walk throughs and collect your own data. How many students are actively utilizing devices for learning? Are the students interacting/collaborating with the lesson via their devices or is it to record information?  What level on SAMR is being demonstrated in the class instruction and student product? What are some next steps that could happen very easily with technology? What is motivating about the lesson and the teacher’s use of technology? (ask a student)  Then share your data with your administrative leadership team.

The gap is getting smaller, but there is still much work to be done. Teachers can no longer ignore the essential need for technology in the classroom learning environment. Technology if used just as a tool or toy is not beneficial to anyone.  Technology is only beneficial if it is partnered with good instruction and fully integrated into instruction and learning with purpose.

What are ways that you are closing the gap between tool based technology implementation and a separate content implemented curriculum?

What Does Failing Forward Mean?

Recently at a social event a person quizzically stated to me, “I bet you are glad to see the school  year almost over.”

I hesitated and then responded, “I feel like there is so much I still want to do that I thought I would have already accomplished. So I guess I am a little sad. I can’t believe the end of my first year as an assistant principal is already here. Now I have a lot of goals for next year!”

Aside from the fact that I love being at school and with students and teachers and never long for the end of a year or saying goodbye to students. I also see the deadline coming for meeting goals I have set for myself, for my campus, for my teachers and for my students. If I was within reach of the goals I set… the end of the school year would be a punctuation of celebration. However, for me it is not quite that.

learning

Couros, George. “What Success (and Learning) Really Looks Like.” The Principal of Change. N.p., 16 Jan. 2016. Web. 02 May 2017.

This year hasn’t been so much about a gentle forward move on a line of progression toward growth, but an awkward series of stops and starts due to the learning curve that comes with being in a new position. I will say every experience I have learned something. I have grown, maybe not in the direction of the goals I have set, but still I have grown… by leaps and bounds, on my own and with the support of others.

A conversation that happened around the first of March with a mentor has stuck with me. I was in the midst of a large task that required decisions where there wasn’t a clear right or wrong/ yes or no. I had to determine what I thought was best. I asked for my mentor’s input.

My mentor replied,”You are going to have to make this decision for yourself.”

I pleaded, “I want your opinion.”

“You are going to make this decision. And if you fail, fail forward.”

At the time I was frustrated by this response. I wanted to have assurance that the decision I was making was right. I did not want failure to be a remote possibility.

There have been many decisions before that, and many since that conversation. Not every situation presented the opportunity to fail forward, but each one has helped me grow, strengthened me, and sharpened my focus as a leader.

As I reflect back at the year, I note where I have fallen short in reaching the goals I have set for myself. I choose to see the failure in reaching the goals I had set for myself as an opportunity to fail forward. Failing forward is what drives the goals for the upcoming year. It is in the failing forward I grab for what is most important and utilize that to sharpen my focus, be purposeful in my plan and lead with even more intention.fail forward quote

I do not long for the year to come to an end.  At the same time, I am eagerly looking forward to the next year, knowing I will fail again, but failing forward with grace, strength and the support of those around me.

I am no longer under the illusion that growth happens on a gentle forward moving line of progression. Rather, growth is a beautiful yet awful mix of stops, starts, crawls, runs, trips and stumbles that all move us forward. I look forward to failing forward.

How do you define failing forward? How does failing forward define your growth and goals?

A Quarterly Review: Progress, Process and Persistence

It has been 3 months since I posted my New Year’s post #beUncommon.

We all set goals, but what makes those goals achievable is revisiting them and assessing if we are making progress to meet them, what is the process we are utilizing to work toward those goals and what level of commitment… in many cases persistence are we employing to accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves.

The following were the “Resolutions” or goals I have set for myself for 2015 related to the #beUncommon post.

2015 Resolutions I have not blogged as much as I would have lilked with my family blog… but I am very content with the amount of content I have written for my professional blog.

Our family has continued regular attendance with the church we are members… we only miss when we are sick or are out of town. Our kids make sure of it. This habit has been embraced by our children as much as it has been a desire for my family to attend regularly.

I am well on my way to achieving my #500in2015. As of this post I have logged 148 miles.  I have run one half marathon and am making plans running the other 2 this fall.

The weight loss is probably my greatest challenge. I am happy to report that my exercise, healthy food choices and water intake has become a lifestyle change. I am confident that with patience the weight loss will follow.

I do continue to struggle with the friend time in the purposefully planned family and friend time. I have great ideas but my follow through is a bit lacking. I am not sure if it is my schedule or my friends’ schedules, but I know this has continued to be a resolution that is not improving. I will say family time has improved. So I am going to celebrate what I have made progress on… and persist a bit more to make time for friends.

Finally, the seeking God, sharing his love and trusting his plan for me and my family. I will be honest, this comes in waves. However, one thing I know is the gift I have been given to work with the youth program with my church. Every Wednesday I get to know, share and love on the 6th grade girls that come to life-group. I have watched these girls grow in faith, love for one another, and a passion to pray for others. It is such a privilege to see first hand these girls learn, share and create a little community of support. They have taught me so much about patiently waiting for the right timing and simplistic joy. I was supposed to facilitate spiritual learning as they sought answers, but in the process they taught me. Most of all, they have my heart.

As I look back at the first quarter of 2015, I am blessed. I have progressed, it is still a process, and yes, I will persist.

As you reflect over the first quarter of 2015… how are you progressing, processing and persisting through your goals?

ROLE Reversal Observed

ROLE book

A few months ago I was introduced to the ROLE approach via a discussion with 7th Grade English/Language Arts Teacher, Sara Hutson.  She had been talking with friend and fellow colleague, Kat Julian, an 8th Grade English/Language Arts Teacher at Coppell Middle School East, from Coppell I.S.D..

After Sara shared her contagious curiosity about this instructional philosophy and approach, I wanted to learn more and turned to my Twitter PLN.  Very few were familiar or had implemented the approach, but many were intrigued.  I turned my search to the internet.  I found some information and learned that ROLE (Results Only Learning Environment) derives its approach from Daniel Pink’s Drive philosophy on motivation which inspired the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) approach in the work place (I curated resources in Pinterest and ScoopIt).  In both ROLE and ROWE the premise, from what I learned so far, is based on the following:

1) the individual (not the boss/teacher) setting goals

2) working toward those goals with set checkpoints or deadlines

3) continuous feedback and purposeful reflection guided by the teacher/boss connected to the checkpoints/deadlines

4) self assessment of goals achieved/mastery of task(s)

I was intrigued and as curious as Sara was at this point.  Together we made plans to go and see ROLE in action.

Upon arrival to Coppell Middle School East, it looked much like any other Middle School, active, social and bursting with teenage energy.  We were escorted to Kat Julian’s classroom.  She had introduced us to the idea and was now sharing how it played out in the classroom.  As we walked in students were working on MacBooks and iPads bringing a year long PBL into its final stages for presentation the last week in May.  Some student groups were in the hallways recording, others were working together on one product, while others were in sitting in groups but working on individual components of their group PBL.  No one was off task, no one was asking the teacher what they should do next.  They all were self-driven, self-directed and self-reflective.  How was this self-regulated learning just happening?

We soon found out.  The vertical team of English Language Arts Teachers at Coppell Middle School East, had worked hard, struggled, re-structured, and ultimately succeeded to get to this point.

The team: Kat Julian, 8th grade; Megan Boyd, 7th; Laura Melson, 6th grade; and their principal, Laura Springer.

First, the entire team had the following: same planning time, support of their principal and school board, and one school day per six weeks to meet, collaborate, brainstorm, vertically align and problem solve.  Secondly, the team was also directly trained by the author of ROLE Reversal, Mark Barnes who has continued to support them throughout this whole process.

Most importantly, they were intentional and purposeful in how they presented the ROLE approach to both students and parents.

Parents were supplied a “Standards Card” that lists all the standards students are expected to work toward mastery throughout the year.  Students are expected to self-report on their learning, and “negotiate” their level of mastery and provide evidence that they are progressing toward the learning goals for the year every 6 weeks via a one to one grade conference with their teachers.  Teachers create an open Google Doc Spreadsheet that shows the standards addressed, feedback and whether or not mastery was met.

Parents have access to the Google Doc at all times.  They have several tasks throughout the year and goals, but there is one year long PBL all students are expected to complete.  The PBL focused on individual learning first, then group terms are set (a rubric is always present to establish terms… teacher written early in the year, then later student written), and finally collaboration of research occurs with students in their groups that leads them to a final PBL product.  In all cases the teacher is a facilitator and provides feedback at certain deadlines.  The teacher is not the supplier of information.

Feedback from the teacher follows the process of 1)Summarizing what learning is evident 2)Explain what has met mastery 3)Re-direct what may not have met mastery and 4)Provide new deadline date to Re-submit work.

Most would ask next… does it work?  Answer: A resounding yes!  While it isn’t just about a state test, this approach seems to have not only addressed the whole learner developing a passion driven learner, but resulted in unprecedented results on the state test.  In the 8th grade ROLE classes 100% of students passed with 80% scoring at the advanced level. Additionally, of these students 62% improved or showed growth from the previous year. Even more than that was to observe the self-directed, self-regulated, self-motivated passionate learning driven by the student at a depth that I knew was possible but had not seen fully realized with such a large amount of students.

Furthermore, in the 7th grade Mrs. Boyd saw tremendous improvement in her students’ with their campus 25 book campaign.  As we observed in this classroom, students were evaluating their year long reading logs.  Students had consistently read, recorded their reading, written a recommendation posted to the class blog and reflected on their reading.  Many moved from only reading 2 or 3 books the previous year to reading 25-30 books this year.  When asked why were they more successful, students remarked that it was because they had consistently evaluated themselves in their feedback conferences with their teachers and had their fellow classmates blog recommendations that helped them find books of interest.  The day we were observing students were creating their celebration picture.  We were able to grab a few to share.  I did not have these students myself, but I was overcome with emotion as I saw the excitement of students as they proudly shared their achievement.  Additionally, without provocation they shared the understanding they had gained about the correlation between abundant reading and their writing. (Insert the cheering and applause of every English Language Arts Teacher HERE!)

ROLE reading goal 2 ROLE reading goal

To see this all in action and working successfully was amazing and fantastic.  I am anxious to see this happen in my district.  I know it is possible.  We already have so many pieces that lend themselves to this approach. We utilize the workshop model, PBLs, document based questioning, and standards based bulletin boards to move emphasis from a grade focus to mastery of skills. Watching students be self-regulating, self-motivated and self-directed with intense passion and commitment I am eager to see how it could be implemented.

I am eager to read the book ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes and learn with others via my PLN and fellow district colleagues about this student focused approach to learning.

What are your thoughts on ROLE?  Do you have experience with this approach?  Please share your thoughts, ideas and comments.

When we “Be Brave”…

ferroni quote with canvaWe all have celebrated the moments when we inspire our students.  In those same moments we have become inspired as well.  Often the inspiration takes us on a journey through the reflective epiphany of a fear to take a risk with something or a realization that we have purposefully avoided a challenge.  However, in the face of this inspiration, we know we must seize the moment, push forward and “Be Brave.”

As an instructional technology specialist I am constantly looking for this dynamic between student and teacher inspiration that leads to risk taking and being brave.  After seeing this in many of the teachers and students I work with, I chose to capture through video some of the benefits of heeding the “inspiration boomerang” in hope that more “inspired bravery” would occur.  This video is just a small picture of the teachers and students in my district that daily inspire one another.

One of the teachers, Mr. Suhr, was recently featured on our district Instructional Technology blog, “Making IT Click.”

As Teacher Appreciation Week ends and we begin to bring our instructional year to a close, I hope 2013-14 provided many moments inspired bravery.  As we reflect, think forward, and set goals for 2014-15, how do you plan to continue to “Be Brave?”

The “E” in ePortfolio- A Reflection

This past fall our Superintendent shared with us her four main initiatives.  One of them to have every student K-12 create a living portfolio that showcases student learning.  The platform to deliver this… Google Sites.

What happened next was a concerted effort by our instructional team to help train teachers, support students and intentional time spent with students to get started.

When the educational world is in an uproar over testing and common core, ePortfolios show what can happen when effective instructional practices are in place and high expectations, married with freedom of choice, are communicated with students.  ePortfolios is authentic learning at its best.

But authentic learning aside, what happened with students is the story worth telling.

Students embraced the ePortfolios.  Eager to have choice in design and input on what would be included changed how students and teachers viewed learning.  It suddenly became about what is best about the student and not a compliance about products that “must” be included.

Follow the link below to our District IT blog to see how one student,  with teacher’s guidance, fully embraced the idea of ePortfolios and ran with it..

(Northwest ISD Instructional Technology Blog: “Making IT Click”)